Mon village est devenu une ferme d’élévage / Un village de futurs cerveaux disponibles / Qui comme l’huître / Gavés de planctons jusqu'à terme / Se répandront hors de leurs coquilles / Se réaliser dans un autre tube digestif / Alimenter ainsi la machine supérieure / Et son monstrueux dessein de croissance infinie
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Why Walk When You Can Stroll?

Le sperme français de moins bonne qualité, selon les Britanniques

Le nombre de spermatozoïdes des hommes français ont chuté d'un tiers entre 1989 et 2005, indique une étude.


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- (Les Echos 201216/2/2012)

Afficher article


-Why Walk When You Can Stroll?
Published: April 2, 2011

THE stroller is up on the shelf. When we moved to New York from Silver Spring, Md., not quite a year ago, I thought it would stay there. New York is a walking city and we had found an apartment four blocks from our son’s preschool. He was turning 3. The stroller — infernal, clunky, annoying thing — would go into semi-retirement in the coat closet.

Actually, that was an earlier stroller. The brakes wore out and the foot strap ripped apart under constant use. Now there is a new red hundred-and-something-dollar stroller on the shelf, which replaced that $69.99 stroller, which had replaced the $18 stroller we bought two cities ago, when the kid truly was incapable of walking.
Time to go to school. I pull the stroller down, pop it open and strap on the clear plastic rain cover. Out the window, down on the street, there’s wet pavement and open umbrellas. I’ve attached one side of the rain cover to the wrong piece of the stroller, and have to redo it.
The only thing worse than the stroller is not having the stroller. It’s close. This stroller, bless it, hates itself, and wants to vanish — it’s an umbrella stroller, collapsible, less than 10 pounds. Like a real umbrella, it’s an irritant or a menace when it’s in someone else’s hands, clogging the sidewalks, a tragedy of the commons. Other people’s umbrellas are awful. But what are you going to do, get rained on?
(Actually, yes, if you are pushing a stroller, you are going to get rained on, because you don’t have a free hand.)
I roll the kid down the hallway, into the elevator, and out through the lobby. We roll west toward the river and head uptown. Children in strollers “have no idea how demeaned they are,” the psychologist and columnist John Rosemond wrote last year. He was writing in defense of parents who put their children on leashes and let them run. Whatever you do with your child, it’s appalling to someone.
Last time I lived in New York, when I was childless, I had to dodge the grim-faced parents rampaging down the sidewalks with their double-wide, all-terrain strollers. Where did their rageful sense of entitlement come from? They devoured every inch of space under scaffolds, obstructed store aisles — and did it righteously, as if the world owed them an unimpeded runway for their child-furniture. I couldn’t imagine what sort of yuppie lunatic would spend a hundred bucks on a stroller. (Answer: a yuppie lunatic who wants the warranty. Yet all around are ultrayuppie ultralunatics who spent $500 or $700.)
But the stroller-haters are self-centered, too, or unthinking. There’s a fallacy among childless people that there are simple ways for parents to make their children less annoying, and the parents just choose not to do them.
Would pedestrians infuriated by stroller traffic really be happier if the sidewalks were full of 2- and 3-year-olds toddling along at their natural pace, clutching their guardians’ hands? I know it’s hard on others when I’m going up the subway steps with a giant bundle of child and stroller in my arms. But you would prefer a 3-year-old climbing ... step ... by ... step?
I wouldn’t. I like to go fast, too. Ahead of us is one of the kid’s older schoolmates, walking hand in hand with his father. The boy wears rubber boots and a warm hat. It is an adorable scene. Our son would pitch a fit at the sight of the boots, and would peel off the hat and throw it in the gutter. Ice pellets are falling, bouncing off the stroller’s canopy. I give the classmate and his father a nod and a smile as I swing the stroller wide and speed ahead of them.
Why do we turn our children into rolling luggage? Parents are sacrificing their children’s opportunity to develop self-reliance, a childless stroller-foe told me, for the sake of their convenience. Well, heck, yes, we are. I do that all the time. I fork-feed my kid in restaurants to keep him quiet and tidy. I delayed his switch from diapers to underwear for two weeks because we had a vacation with a long plane ride coming up.
We can see the corrupting effects of the stroller. He goes to spend a week or two with his grandparents in the Midwestern suburbs, that sprawling American landscape of car addiction and epidemic obesity, and he comes back with his legs sun-browned and rippling with muscles, a little frontiersman, conqueror of empty lawns and parking lots. His grandparents don’t even keep a stroller around.
But time is money in New York: if I get him to preschool briskly and punctually, which is not how a small child moves under his own power, I get 2 hours and 55 minutes at my desk, uninterrupted. Wheels are faster than little feet. So he takes the stroller to school, rather than walking four blocks. He prefers it. Why? I asked him the other night. “Because I like to sit in it.” Why is that? “Because it’s nice in there, O.K.?” Why not walk? “Walking does not make any sense.”
We reach the school door just behind the twins in his class, their nanny doing an angled backing maneuver with their immense tandem stroller, like a U-Haul trying to get into an undersized driveway. How else would you get them anywhere? I pop the kid out of his seatbelt, collapse the stroller and hook it over a railing that I believe the school has installed for exactly that purpose. Down the hall to the restroom now, for mandatory hand-washing. This is the part where he starts bouncing on his feet, all the way back to the classroom door.
Raising children is about setting limits. The sales clerk told us that the new red stroller was good up to 55 pounds. The kid’s weight is holding steady, a shade under 30. If he stays on his current, normal growth curve, the stroller will be able to carry him until he’s about 9 years old. That is ridiculous, but those are the specs. Even a 3 ½-year-old knows it’s ridiculous. How old does he think he’ll be before he gives up the stroller? “I think just like one more year old.”

Tom Scocca is the author of the blog Scocca on Slate and the forthcoming “Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.”


-The Mystery of the Ghost Stroller Deepens

Maybe the sight of a reporter nosing around with a notepad for Tuesday’s Big City column made the mysterious creator of Park Slope’s ghost stroller — a stroller painted white to look like a memorial — think the object had received more than enough attention.
Or maybe a Park Slope parent got fed up with the gruesome image and sawed the padlock, then dumped the stroller in a pile of garbage in front of someone’s home on Sixth Avenue near Berkeley Place, where it was seen lying around 9 p.m. on Monday.
But the Ghost Stroller lives to tell another tale, one of warning: A crossing guard who works on the corner of Berkeley and Sixth, in front of Public School 282, said Tuesday morning that she was appalled that someone had moved what she assumed to be a memorial for a young child. She placed it in front of the school as a warning to cars and pedestrians about road safety.
Let us know if you see the Ghost Stroller turn up somewhere else.

-Kid Crazy: Why We Exaggerate the Joys of Parenthood

All parents know that having kids is a blessing — except when it's a nightmare of screaming fits, diapers, runny noses, wars over bedtimes and homework and clothes. To say nothing of bills too numerous to list. Some economists have argued that having kids is an economically silly investment; after all, it's cheaper to hire end-of-life care than to raise a child. Now comes new research showing that having kids is not only financially foolish but that kids literally make parents delusional.

Researchers have known for some time that parents with minors who live at home report feeling calm significantly less often than than people who don't live with young children. Parents are also angrier and more depressed than nonparents — and each additional child makes them even angrier. Couples who choose not to have kids also have better, more satisfying marriages than couples who have kids. (More on 5 Pregnancy Taboos Explained (or Debunked))

To be sure, all such evidence will never outweigh the desire to procreate, which is one of the most powerfully encoded urges built into our DNA. But a new paper shows that parents fool themselves into believing that having kids is more rewarding than it actually is. It turns out parents are in the grip of a giant illusion.

The paper, which appears in the journal Psychological Science, presents the results of two studies conducted by Richard Eibach and Steven Mock, psychologists at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The studies tested the hypothesis that “idealizing the emotional rewards of parenting helps parents to rationalize the financial costs of raising children.”

Their hypothesis comes out of cognitive-dissonance theory, which suggests that people are highly motivated to justify, deny or rationalize to reduce the cognitive discomfort of holding conflicting ideas. Cognitive dissonance explains why our feelings can sometimes be paradoxically worse when something good happens or paradoxically better when something bad happens. For example, in one experiment conducted by a team led by psychologist Joel Cooper of Princeton, participants were asked to write heartless essays opposing funding for the disabled. When these participants were later told they were really compassionate — which should have made them feel better — they actually felt even worse because they had written the essays. (More on Five Things for the New Mom Who Has Everything)

Here's how cognitive-dissonance theory works when applied to parenting: having kids is an economic and emotional drain. It should make those who have kids feel worse. Instead, parents glorify their lives. They believe that the financial and emotional benefits of having children are significantly higher than they really are.

To test their hypothesis, Eibach and Mock recruited 80 parents at public locations in the northeastern U.S. Forty-seven of the parents were women, and all had at least one child under 18. Eibach and Mock then split the participants into two groups. Those in the first group were asked to read U.S. Department of Agriculture data from 2004 showing that it costs an average middle-income family in the Northeast $193,680 to raise a child to the age of 18.

The second group was asked to read the same data, but participants in that group also received information that adult children provide financial and other support to aging parents so that parents are often more financially secure in their later years than nonparents.

Both groups then read eight statements about parenting and rated their agreement with those statements on a five-point scale from -2 (strongly disagree) to +2 (strongly agree). The statements included falsehoods like “Nonparents are more likely to be depressed than parents” and “Parents experience a lot more happiness and satisfaction in their lives compared to people who have never had children.” (More on Five Ways to Stop Stressing)

The results confirmed Eibach and Mock's hypothesis. Parents who read only the data showing how expensive kids are should have responded more negatively to parenting. But in fact they idealized parenting far more than those who were also given the information about the benefits of parenting later on.

Why? For the same reason you keep spending money to fix up an old car when it just doesn't work — or keep investing in the same company when it's failing. Humans throw good money after bad all the time. When we have invested a lot in a choice that turns out to be bad, we're really inept at admitting that it didn't make rational sense. Other research has shown that we romanticize our relationships with spouses and partners significantly more when we believe we have sacrificed for them. We like TVs that we've spent a lot to buy even though our satisfaction is no lower when we watch a cheaper television set.

To confirm their results, Eibach and Mock conducted a second experiment, this time with 60 parents. The second study was identical to the first but added a control group that got no information about parenting at all. The second experiment also added measures of participants' enjoyment of time spent with their kids and intentions to spend future time with them. And the subjects were asked to compare spending time with their children to spending time with their spouse or partner, spending time with their best friend, and spending time on a favorite hobby.

Once again, those who read only about how expensive kids are idealized parenthood far more than those who read about both the costs and the benefits of raising children (and far more than the control group did). They were also significantly more likely to believe that spending time with kids is more rewarding than other activities, even though researchers have found that when you measure how rewarding parents found any given day spent with their children, they rated that day worse than they had expected to. (More on 5 Little-Known Truths About American Sex Lives)

Does this mean you shouldn't have kids? Yes — but you won't. Our national fantasy about the joys of parenting permeates the culture. Never mind that it wasn't always like this. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we thought nothing of requiring kids to get jobs even before they hit puberty. Few thought of it as abuse. Reformers helped change the system — and rightly so — so that children could be educated. But this created a conundrum. As Eibach and Mock write, “As children's economic value plummeted, their perceived emotional value rose, creating a new cultural model of childhood that [one researcher] aptly dubbed ‘the economically worthless but emotionally priceless child.'” Or, as the writer Jennifer Senior put it in a New York magazine article last summer, “Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

Of course parents should be commended for one little thing they do: maintain the existence of humanity. I praise them for that, but I think they're both heroes and suckers.

Follow my health columns on Twitter @JohnAshleyCloud


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